powers of attorney

power of attorney (commonly referred to as a POA) is a document that allows you to appoint a person or organization to manage your affairs if you become unable to do so. However, all POAs are not created equal. Each type gives your attorney-in-fact (the person who will be making decisions on your behalf) a different level of control.

 

  • durable financial power of attorney in the event of mental or physical inability to handle financial matters

  • health care power of attorney in the event of inability to make or communicate health care decisions including a living will with end of life instructions

  • mental health care power of attorney in the event of the onset of dementia, Alzheimer's disease and the like

Power of Attorney
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
  • This document names an agent, and at least one alternate agent, who acts only upon the unavailability, disability or incapacity of the Principal

  • This is a document that gives your agent the power to make financial decisions for you.  Your agent will be able to use your money to pay bills, deposit money into your bank accounts, file and pay your taxes, collect your Medicare and other government benefits or they can manage any retirement accounts you have.

  • This document is effective during the lifetime of the person who signs it.  It ceases to be effective upon the death of the signator.

  • The agent ceases to be able to function if the person becomes available, the disability or incapacity ceases and the person is restored to competence with ability to function, or the person dies, or a conservator is appointed

  • Who do you want as your agent? The person you name as your agent should be 18 years or older.  This is not a bonded position.  Therefore, be sure to select a person who is trustworthy.

Health Care Power of Attorney with Living Will
  • This document names an agent, and at least one alternate agent.  Your named agent acts if you are unable to make or communicate health care decisions yourself. 

  • This is a document that allows you to provide health care instructions and wishes to your doctor, friends or family only if you become incapacitated and are unable to communicate those wishes yourself.  It lets these people know the types of special treatment you want or do not want.

  • Who do you want to be your health care agent, i.e., the person who makes medical decisions for you if you are too sick to make them for yourself?  The person you name as your agent should be 18 years or older and someone you trust to carry out your wishes. 

  • Think about your values and what is important to you such as talking to family or friends, being free from pain or living without being dependent on machines.  Think about under what circumstances you would like life support treatments.  Life support treatments are used to try to keep you alive such as CPR, breathing machines, feeding tubes, dialysis, blood transfusions or medicine.  The Living Will states your wishes regarding end of life decisions.

  • You can decide if you want to help save lives by donating organs.  You can also decide not to donate your organs or have your agent decide.  You can also decide if you want an autopsy to be done after your death to find out why you died.  You can also leave instructions about whether you wish to be cremated or buried after you die.

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Mental Health Care Power of Attorney
  • This document allows you to designate a person to make future mental health care decisions for you if you become incapable of making those decisions for yourself.  You may choose to designate multiple people if you wish to ensure that one person doesn’t control all decisions regarding your mental health care.  The agent’s decisions are required to be consistent with the wishes you express in the mental health care power of attorney.

  • You can amend or revoke the document at any time as long as you are legally competent.

  • In the event the signer is incapable as defined by ARS §36-501, the agent can make decisions regarding mental health care for the signer who is incapable. 

  • The decision about whether you are incapable can only be made by a physician who is licensed (pursuant to Title 32, chapter 13 or 17) and who is a specialist in neurology or psychiatry or a psychologist who is licensed pursuant to Title 32, chapter 19.1).

According to alzheimers.net,  one in three seniors dies with some form of dementia and, by 2025, the number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to reach 7.1 million people, a 27% increase from the 5.6 million age 65 and older in 2019.  While I recommend that all individuals have a mental health care power of attorney, it is particularly important when:  

  • You have a history of mental illness in your family or your own medical history.

  • You have - or at high risk to have - psychosis associated with other illnesses, such as Alzheimer's or dementia.

  • You take - or may in the future take - medication which puts you at a high risk of negatively impacting your mood or ability to function.

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